Food crisis looms following low rainfall in maize region

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By Nation Correspondent

The country is headed for a major food crisis following depressed rainfall in the North Rift.

Agriculture experts and farmers have expressed fears of poor maize harvest after more than 40 per cent of the crop was damaged by drought.

A survey by the Uasin Gishu County department of agriculture indicates that there was poor germination in most farms and farmers may have to replant in cases where there was failure.

“Productivity is expected to be lower because some of the crops are already showing nutritional deficiency,” said Mr Cyril Cheruiyot, the county executive for agriculture.

Uasin Gishu County produced 4.5 million bags of maize last season but the yield is set to drop this season after the crop was destroyed by the dry spell.

County director of agriculture Joseph Cheboi also said the dry spell impacted negatively on the crop germination process.

The meteorological department had warned of poor rainfall patterns during the long rains season and its subsequent threat to national food security.

The impending fears of food shortage have been confirmed by agricultural officials who admit that some farmers might be forced to uproot maize crop damaged by the prolonged drought.

“Erratic rainfall resulted in uneven germination of maize. Some farmers might have to uproot withered crops” said Mr Peter Lang’at an Eldoret based agricultural expert.

Some farmers reduced the acreage under crop production. Only about 77,225 hectares of the targeted 92,500 in Uasin Gishu County was planted with maize.

Counties in Northern Kenya that received less rain during the planting period (February-April) include Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Baringo, Nakuru and Bungoma.

They are classified as high maize growing regions, and form the country’s food basket.

Trans Nzoia County is expected to record reduced maize harvest. County director of agriculture Edward Osanya said unfavourable weather was affecting maize production and making farmers incur losses.

The region has an annual production capacity of 5 million bags.

Maize production in Rift Valley dropped from 21million bags to 16 million bags last year due to unreliable rainfall and attack of the crop by Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) disease.

The farmers in the region are shifting to cultivation of such drought resistant crops like sorghum and finger millet to minimize on losses.

Some of the farmers have been forced to uproot withered maize crops and plant beans for domestic consumption as they contemplate planting ‘Katumani’ maize seed variety that is resistant to drought.